Best Inspirational Performance

Bobby Watson

Celebration at the Station

Celebration at the Station — KC's free, communitywide, symphony-and-fireworks picnic — celebrated its 10th year this past Memorial Day. It also drew its biggest crowd to date, an estimated 30,000 people. Early in the program, while the sun was still setting on Union Station, local hero Bobby Watson came onstage and started playing "America the Beautiful" on his alto sax. No one introduced him, and he played without sheet music, one man and one horn. His improvised variations rang clear and beautiful around the melody, reminding us for a few minutes that maybe God had some grace left to shed. The flawless performance lasted a little less than three minutes, and it left the crowd stunned. As people first applauded and then stood up, he took a few humble bows and left the stage. With no fanfare and no pretension, Watson had just held what would become a hot, violent, politically bitter summer at bay for a moment — a moment we remember whenever we wonder whether everyday ugliness can give way to transcendent pulchritude.

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